ICT solutions for third country nationals: a leverage for their integration in times of Covid-19

September 2021 – Paul Hammoud (Diesis Network)

This article is written in the framework of the ICT4TCN project.

The Covid-19 pandemic revealed just how many “key workers” who are often migrants perform “essential functions” across the European continent.1 To address labour shortages, especially in seasonal activities, some EU Member States implemented measures to facilitate labour market access for third-country nationals (TCNs) already on the territory. Regularization of third-country nationals employed in certain key sectors was permitted in a limited number of cases, both in EU and non-EU OECD countries.2 Despite these measures, TCNs still face difficulties to integrate the EU labour market, especially migrant and refugee women, for several reasons. In a report3 produced in July 2021 the framework of the RIDE project4 , it appears that in the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, Greece and Bulgaria, most of the migrants and refugees are working in semi-skilled and low-skilled jobs, such as those in restaurant, factories, accommodation and hotels. This is due to;

  • Limited or no job opportunities
  • Labour market discriminations against foreign workers
  • Sex discrimination in the labour market (preference of companies to hire men over women)
  • Non-recognition or validation of existing qualifications from home countries
  • Low-level education and qualifications (especially in regard to migrant and refugee women)
  • Lack of access to education and training
  • Language barriers
  • Family conditions, especially for women, i.e. having access to childcare services

Furthermore, for migrant and refugee women family and childcare posed an issue. As an illustration of this situation, in 2020, the EU unemployment rate for people aged 20 to 64 years was 13.9 % for those born outside the EU, 8.1 % for those born in another EU Member State and 6.1 % for the native-born population.5 This shows the gap, from simple to more than double, of unemployment chances, only based on your birthplace. Moreover, it now appears clearly that the Covid-19 already has and will have a huge and sustainable impact on the ways of working, with a number of significant longer-term effects on society and the economy, and thus also on migration.6 The two most common and clear changes would be digitalization and teleworking. This translates into more and more daily tasks that can be performed from home, using only a computer, such as online banking, online appointments, online studying, working from home, communicating with families and friends. As digitalization is a phenomenon that is causing fast and great changes in many different work and life aspects, leaving some people behind, it also creates new job opportunities. The labour market is indeed in need of digital professionals and companies are advancing in providing more and more digital training to their employees. This is a great time for third-country nationals and ethnic minorities to take the opportunity to enter the digital labour market by accessing available digital training in their country of residence. That being said, it is also needed to include more inclusive policies and consultation processes to address and overcome the gaps between policies and affected people. The language barrier is also of high importance and must be addressed with the right tools and means. National language is always a big, and often necessary, asset to integrate the labour market. It is also worth keeping in mind that digitalization comes with particular languages, on a technical level (coding, programming) and on a speaking level as English vocabulary is often use in the digital and IT worlds. On the integration side, social distancing can also weaken social networks which migrants often already lack. For theses reasons, it is vital for migrants to integrate the labour market, helped by the digitalization and its benefits, but also to integrate the society with physical and “real life” moments with local and national communities, should it be by practicing a sport, a hobby, neighborhood activities, etc.


This report has been released in the framework of the ICT4TCN project (Agreement number: 2019-1-CZ01-KA204-061329), which is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission. The European Commission is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.

1 Shada Islam, Europe’s migration ‘crisis’ isn’t about numbers. It’s about prejudice, 8 October 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/08/europe-migration-crisis-prejudice-eu-refugee-orban-christian
2 https://www.oecd.org/migration/mig/00-eu-emn-covid19-umbrella-inform-en.pdf
3 Preliminary study on the inclusion for digital empowerment for migrant women, RIDE Project, July 2021, https://uploadsssl.webflow.com/60d4767912235a89e55be3b5/6107f6318ba4e7dcbb308d0a_RIDE_PreliminaryStudy.pdf
4 The RIDE project aims to include migrant and refugee women in the digital labour market by giving them the possibility to reskill or upskill in the digital sector through specially designed training courses enabling them to start working. https://www.rideproject.eu/
5 Eurostat, Unemployment rates in the EU, by country of birth, 2010-2020, April 2021, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statisticsexplained/index.php?title=Migrant_integration_statistics_%E2%80%93_labour_market_indicators
6 The European Migration Network, OECD, The impact of COVID-19 in the migration area in EU and OECD countries, April 2021, https://www.oecd.org/migration/mig/00-eu-emn-covid19-umbrella-inform-en.pdf